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Identifying High-Impact Nonprofits Working with At-Risk Youth in the U.S.

June 6th, 2011 by dawn Leave a reply »


Children, youth, and families is an extremely broad category. We decided to focus on at-risk youth because we felt the issues were pressing but very few funders fund at-risk youth programs because many believe they can make a bigger impact funding children during the early childhood development stages. In 2000, more than 4 million youth between ages 16-24 were neither working nor in school and 25% are estimated to be parents. Each year, more than 20,000 teens leave the foster-care system with little transitional support. In 1997, 350,000 young men between the ages of 18-24 were inmates in federal and state prisons and local jails. The population of 16-24 year olds is expected to grow at an above-average rate over the next decade and most of the increase will be among blacks, Latinos, and young immigrants. As a result, we decided to conduct our research on identifying high-impact nonprofits in the area of at-risk youth to bring more attention to this cause.



If you are an expert in the nonprofit sector working with at-risk youth, you should have received an email from us with a link to our survey and we hope you will share your perspective and insights with us! If for some reason we have missed you and you think you have a valuable perspective to offer, please contact me, Dawn at, and we would love to include your insights.


The findings below are the result of interviewing nine influential experts in the field. I’m sure I haven’t been able to capture every nuance in this sector, so I invite your feedback and thoughts about how you might think about this work. For those readers less familiar with this topic, I hope you will learn something new and tune in again when we have the results of this research. Thank you all for your participation!



After speaking with nine influential experts in the field, we decided to include nonprofits that work with the following populations:

1. Foster youth or youth transitioning out of foster care: Every year more than 700,000 children are abused or neglected, and each day 1,200 children are removed from their families to enter foster care. The consequences of child maltreatment can be profound and may endure long after the abuse or neglect occurs, affecting various aspects of an individual’s development (physical, cognitive, psychological, and behavioral), yet fewer than four in ten abused or neglected children and families receive necessary services (including trauma-informed mental health services) and supports to overcome challenges.

2. Youth involved with juvenile justice: Every year, approximately two million people under age 18 are arrested and 100,000 are held in residential placement facilities. Many juvenile offenders experience multiple challenges including mental health and substance abuse issues, and learning disabilities, and have a history of poverty, trauma, abuse, and/or neglect. To prevent recidivism, young people can benefit from a range of re-entry and mentoring services.

3. Runaway and homeless youth: These organizations that work with this population try to help youth by providing shelters, conducting street outreach to identify youth and bring them to safer environment, and establishing long term permanent housing for older more chronic homeless youth.

4. High school dropouts or youth at risk of dropping out of school: These organizations try to prevent youth at risk of dropping out of school and if they have already dropped out of school, these organizations help youth find employment or further vocational training.

5. Teen parents: These organizations work with this population to provide education on contraceptives and abstinence and provide support services for teen parents.

Types of services nonprofits provide include everything on how to service the child outside of academic enrichment. This can include:

  1. After youth development and afterschool initiatives
  2. Economic supports for families
  3. Child abuse and neglect prevention
  4. Workforce development
  5. Youth crime and justice
  6. Homelessness
  7. Counseling
  8. Mentorship

And finally, the types of nonprofits could include research, evaluation, policy, advocacy, intermediaries, or direct service providers.


Excluded from the scope of this research are nonprofits that focus on childhood nutrition/health, education, youth development and after school programs that aren’t focused on at-risk youth, and early childhood education and care.


This is just a summary of my notes after having talked to nine experts in the field. What do you think? What have I missed? What might you add? Please feel free to leave a comment and help build on these notes.



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